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Village Reporters Combat Malaria Using ICTs

Among the more than one million people malaria kills annually are hundreds of thousands of children. Most are under age five, their immature immune systems failing to control the aggressive disease. The majority of these children are from the developing world. Almost 90 percent are from sub-Saharan Africa.

Killing children is not all malaria does. Over the course of the past 4,000-plus years, this mosquito-borne disease has slowly insinuated itself into human society. Its effects are both far-reaching and complex. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria threatens approximately 2 billion to 3 billion people, or roughly 40 percent of the world's population, and inflicts approximately 500 million clinical attacks each year.

These attacks can result in severe complications during pregnancy and lead to maternal death or low infant-birth weight. Data on malaria can be hard to obtain but scientists reckon that the disease reportedly kills 71,000 to 190,000 infants in Africa annually. It can leave victims cognitively disabled. The malaria parasite also interacts with other afflictions, such as HIV and under-nutrition, in ways that are still not well understood.


Economically, malaria drains the wealth of nations and households. Recently WHO reported that malaria costs Africa alone US $12 billion a year. In countries where this disease is endemic, it grinds down the per capita economic growth rate by 1.3 percent yearly. Poor households can spend up to 34 percent of their total income fighting malaria, observed WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

All of these numbers paint a grim global picture, but what is perhaps most disturbing about these figures is that they have not improved over the last 10 years. In fact, according to WHO and other experts, they have been getting worse. Despite eradication efforts during the 1950s and 1960s, an array of bold targets set at international conferences, and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) programme with its extensive global partnership, this ancient disease continually finds new ways (such as drug-resistant parasites) to take the lives of some of the world's most vulnerable.

 

The Zambian government has not holistically involved the community in the fight against Malaria thus losing on the critical mass of local knowledge embedded in communities on combating malaria.  This approach has resulted in less appreciation of programmes meant to fight Malaria by the government and other key stakeholders. Information has been disseminated to the people without allowing them to take part in the solution formulation process.

 

Malaria is a significant cause of death and illness in most Zambian communities especially in rural areas yet communities lack affordable technologies that can be used to combat the disease. The high mortality rate as a result of the disease   translates into depletion of human resources, decrease productivity through lowered output thereby lowering Zambia’s capacity for development.


It is against this background that the Zambia Malaria Foundation in collaboration with One World Africa held a Training workshop for Zambian based village Reporters. The main aim of the workshop was to Train the Community people on how to report on Malaria cases through the use of ICTs such as radio.

 

Among the twenty seven trainees, six were Radio Producers drawn from Chikaya, Mazabuka and Liseli community radio stations respectively. The rest were drawn from three Zambian Communities; Mongu, Mazabuka and Lundazi respectively. The training gave capacity to the reporters to generate, package and disseminate information designed to combat malaria. The participants also explored various ways they can apply the Development Through Radio (DTR) in their respective communities in combating the disease.

 

Speaking in an exclusive interview Zambia Malaria Foundation Director Malama Muleba said this was a unique programme that will spread to all parts of the country. He said ICTs play a pivotal role in improving the health of people in the country. Muleba added that radio was Africa’s traditional ICT and as such is accessed by many people especially in rural area.

 

“Radio is ideal because it leaps across the language barrier. We want our people to find solutions to issues affecting them. I am glad that our communities will come up with systems that will hold players in check as a result of this intervention”. Muleba said.

 

Access to Health Centre, availability of drugs in the health centres, availability of qualified health personnel and the availability of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) are some of the issues that will be monitored in the areas where this project is being implemented.

 

In a related development, the Zambian government revealed that about k2 billion would be spent on the Mass distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets   through out the country and these funds came from the World Bank, Malaria control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa.(MECEPA),UNICEF and Total Zambia Limited.

 

This was said by Zambia’s Minister of Heath Dr. Brian Chituwo.  The minister said under the ITN programme, the objective was to ensure that 80 percent of the population in Zambia slept under an ITN. The exercise targets people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans as well as the aged.

 

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